The Major Declaration event, in its third year since its creation, has won the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Awards Committee’s Collaborative Program of the Year Award. The event was hosted by the Sophomore Committee.
ACUI is a professional international association for students and professionals involved in student unions. Assistant Dean of Sophomores Laura Ballou is a member and has worked for the ACUI in the past.
“There’s an awards committee that’s made up of staff members and volunteers […],” Ballou said. “They look at what packets meet the criteria the best, which ones represent what the essence of the award really is.”
The UR has won other ACUI awards in the past including the Student Driven Program of the Year for the CityCycles program, which was created through student initiative, as well as the Sustainability Award for the UR BioDiesel project.
ArtAwake has also been the recipient of a past ACUI award.
Ballou hopes for the Major Declaration event to become a staple event for sophomores.
“The major declaration celebration is a true collaboration. We’ve had three major declaration programs now, so it’s a relatively new campus tradition,” Ballou said. “We’ve increased the size and now we have almost 500 people come to the event, which is huge. That’s what the goal is. We think there’s definitely positive connections between students declaring their major and then being able to have those productive conversations with the faculty members within their department before they register for classes for their junior year.”
The hope is to transition students from the help that the pre-major advisers can offer to more specific advice from faculty members in the students respective major. Ballou hopes that the faculty will help guide students towards resources that will help them explore the options within their majors.
Ballou also hopes that the Major Declaration event will become a sophomore tradition and give new meaning to a student’s sophomore year.
“Traditions are very important, and sometimes we need more,” Ballou said, comparing sophomore year with the hype of freshman-year orientation. “[…] as first year students, we do this big orientation and you’re welcomed here and embraced, but we didn’t really have anything that celebrates sophomore year.
Ballou said that major declaration for sophomores “felt very transactional and […]didn’t have any spirit behind it. We wanted to make a big deal out of it.”
The Sophomore Committee, the organization who hosts the major declaration event, focuses on providing sophomores with a support structure as they return to school from their freshman year.
“Freshmen […] got a lot of support and a lot of programming, but when you’re a sophomore, we expect you to stand on your own two feet,” senior and former member of the Sophomore Committee Siobhan Mclaughlin said.
“Throughout the year, the sophomore committee plans different events,” Mclaughlin said. “The Major Declaration celebration is what we won the award for […] We’re trying to incentivize students and make it a celebration of your remaining time in college.”
Smith is a member of the class of 2014.